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Posts Tagged ‘Beth Baumert’

Horsepower…it’s what revs that Ferrari’s engine and makes the chainsaw growl. The term is said to have been invented by the engineer James Watt who was famous for his work to improve the performance of steam engines. He determined that mine ponies could move a certain amount of coal in a minute and used this to come up with an arbitrary unit of measure (the rate at which “work” is done) that has made its way down through the centuries.

Those of us who ride know the true meaning of “horsepower.” The energy generated by our horses is what propels us over a jump, after that cow, or down the centerline with pizzazz. We learn how to “energize” our horses (ask them to work harder) and “quiet” them (calm them, relax them). Of course, some horses seem to need to be influenced more one way or the other. And it can take time and experience for us to learn how to figure all that out.

“Imagine the energy scale like the flame of a gas stove,” writes dressage trainer Beth Baumert in her bestselling book WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS. “You can regulate the energy by turning it up or down. Your seat, leg, and hand regulate the horse’s energy: The lower leg and seat, together with a following torso and hand, ask for more energy. The seat that pushes against the fixed hand in a half-halt asks for less. Brilliance comes from increasing the power, but too much energy, or misdirected energy, makes tension and lack of feeling.”

So how do you know when your horse has the right amount of energy?

energy1

Flame too low: not enough energy.

3 Signs There’s Not Enough Energy

• The contact might feel inconsistent like lights that are flickering or sometimes even going out.
• Half-halts don’t work because his energy doesn’t reach your hands.
• Instead of feeling that the walk, trot, and canter are self-perpetuating, your horse feels like a wind-up toy that winds down too easily. Whereas some “reminding aids” are always necessary, you shouldn’t need to remind your horse constantly.

If your horse doesn’t have enough energy, focus on upward transitions that add horsepower. Do exercises that include lengthenings and medium paces. Combine them with suppling exercises—circles, lateral work, half-halts, and downward transitions that help close your horse’s frame and recycle the energy so he’s in a better position to do the forward, energy-producing exercises. Use of cavalletti can achieve the right amount of energy without losing relaxation.

energy2

Flame too high: too much energy.

3 Signs There’s Too Much Energy 

• Your horse is lacking a clear rhythm: it feels hurried or hectic.
• He is too strong in the hand and stiff in downward transitions.
• You feel as if your horse is zooming out from underneath you—moving away from your seat rather than staying balanced under it.

If your horse’s energy is coming from the front-pulling engine, use exercises that will help your horse think about and use his hindquarters. Circles and voltes shape him in bend. Downward transitions, half-halts, corners, and turns make him softer and better balanced. Leg-yield, turn-on-the-forehand, shoulder-fore, turn-on-the-haunches, and lateral exercises encourage looseness and connection from behind. The turn-on-the-forehand reminds the horse that the leg aid influences the hindquarters, not his forehand.

energy-3

Flame just right: ideal energy.

3 Signs The Amount of Energy Is Ideal

• The energy and the rhythm are both self-perpetuating. Your horse doesn’t become slower or faster on his own, and he doesn’t gain or lose energy on his own. 
• You have control of the length of stride. Your horse doesn’t lengthen or shorten the stride on his own. As a result, you have control of the speed or ground coverage.
• Your horse is balanced enough so the “Whoa” and “Go” buttons work equally well. He should have the power and suppleness to go forward promptly and to slow down easily. You feel you’re being carried forward.

 

For more information on creating and containing the right amount of energy under saddle, check out WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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VisPowerlineFB

In WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS author Beth Baumert explains the four physical “Powerlines”—Vertical, Connecting, Spiraling, and Visual—that she says enable us to become balanced and effective in the saddle. The Visual Powerline influences the horse’s balance, as well as his line of travel.

The trajectory of the rider’s eyes is a Visual Powerline that goes out from your body—that is, outside the physical system. It connects you and your horse to the outside world. Your body spirals onto your line of travel, and your eyes focus on a point—a dressage letter, tree, fencepost, or a jump—and use it as a frame of reference so the horse can be directed on a planned course.

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The rider who is constantly looking at her horse’s neck has a problem similar to the one who clutches the saddle with her legs. She will always be in her horse’s balance; she uses her horse’s balance as a frame of reference because she never looks outside it. The rider who stares at her horse’s neck is committed to being “on the forehand” and can’t influence her horse otherwise. Some riders have nervous eyes; they furtively glance here and there. The horse might experience this behavior in the same way a rider experiences a horse that is always looking this way and that. Maybe it’s distracting; it surely can’t help.

The trajectory of the rider’s eyes has amazing influence over the horse’s balance. It can help put horse and rider in a downhill, horizontal, or uphill balance. The angle of the floor of your seat in relation to the ground and your torso’s position is determined by the horse’s balance, but it is influenced by the trajectory of your eyes. When the trajectory is in a downhill balance, your seat is not only inclined to be downhill, but it actually can’t follow the horse’s back.

When the trajectory of the eyes is horizontal, the floor of your seat offers the possibility of a horizontal frame for the “downhill” horse. It influences the horse’s spine to travel in a horizontal path, thus improving his natural balance. The horse’s horizontal frame puts the floor of the rider’s seat in a horizontal position. When the rider is in self-carriage with the trajectory of her eyes on a horizontal line, she can influence the horse to come into an uphill posture.

If you have problems with the trajectory of your eyes, imagine “half-halting” with your head. This encourages you to inhale and shift your head up, which improves your horse’s balance both longitudinally and laterally. It puts the trajectory of your eyes on the line that encourages your horse to become better balanced. Your seat can’t work when your head isn’t balanced over the place where the two spines meet.

Try this exercise:

Step 1  Hold on to just the buckle of your reins with one or both hands, and keep your hands over the pommel of your saddle.

Step 2  Use your eyes to chart your course. Be aware of how your eyes relate to the rest of your body. Your head will want to lead and misalign your body, but don’t let it. Be sure your hands, shoulders, knees, and toes also point the way.

Step 3  Track left and spiral onto a diagonal line of travel. Weight your left seat bone slightly and turn with your outside (right) aids. Be aware of how your weight works. You might need to use more outside leg than you expected.

Step 4  As you finish your diagonal line, spiral right to turn right. Weight your right seat bone slightly and turn with your outside (left) aids. Be persistent about your horse following your body.

Step 5  When your horse is able to understand your body language, pick up the reins and begin your warm-up. You’ll find that your horse is more in tune with your body language, and you only need very subtle rein aids.

 

Learn about the other three Powerlines in Baumert’s bestselling book WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business located on a farm in rural Vermont.

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The inner circle of the best of the equestrian best is not a large one, and considering the length and breadth of the “horse world,” few of us will ever have the opportunity to step inside it. The responsibility to share what the experts and pros have earned over their lifetimes of hard work and devotion—wisdom gleaned from years of riding, training, and striving for horse-and-rider harmony—therefore falls to those who have earned a place at the table.

As the first editor for Dressage Today magazine, and the technical editor for most of the years since the magazine’s beginning in 1994, Beth Baumert has been in constant contact with the best dressage riders, trainers, and judges in the world. Over time, exposure, and because of her natural interest and curiosity, she has accrued a unique understanding of the practical ways riders can learn to harness the balance, energies, and forces at play when they’re in the saddle. We recently caught up with Beth and asked her about the book she has written to help disseminate all she’s learned from “the best of the equestrian best” over the years.

 

TSB: Your new book WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS is partly the result of your many years as Technical Editor at Dressage Today magazine, which gave you access to the best trainers and top riders from all over the world. What’s one memory you have of interviewing or working with a famous equestrian?

BB: My best memories are of interviewing Hubertus Schmidt. We did quite a few articles together, and he puts a lot of effort into explaining things in a way that he thinks people will really understand. His English has become extremely good over the years (and he talks faster than anyone I’ve ever interviewed). He tries to refine the nuances of our language in a very impressive way. It’s quite obvious that he cares. When I finish one of my articles with him, we go over it carefully to be sure everything is clear. Not everyone cares that much.

 

TSB: You were recently interviewed on the Dressage Radio Show (Horse Radio Network) and you stated that writing WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS was something you did partly out of selfishness. Can you explain what you meant?

BB: I should probably say that gathering the information (not writing the book) was done partly out of selfishness. Interviewing the best riders and trainers was—and is—very enriching. In interviews, I never try to make the experts’ information gel with what I think. I’m always an open book because I want to learn as much as I possibly can about how to train dressage horses. The horses and riders in my barns (in Connecticut and in Florida) benefit enormously from the knowledge of these experts. I don’t think I wrote the book out of selfishness. Compiling my thoughts and illustrating them was, frankly, rather tedious, but ultimately rewarding when I hear that it’s helping riders. I never get tired of hearing that.

 

TSB: Your book describes four physical “Powerlines” that help riders become more balanced and effective in the saddle. Where did you get the idea for the “Powerlines”?

BB: It’s hard to say because I’ve thought of the positive energy of a stretchy body as “Powerlines” for a long time. It might have begun with Sally Swift when she first discovered the importance of being “grounded” as a rider. That was after her first book, CENTERED RIDING, was published.

 

Here you see all the Powerlines at work: The Vertical Powerline goes from ear, shoulder, hip, to heel; the rider uses the Spiraling Powerline as she turns slightly to the left; her elastic Connecting Powerline goes from elbow to bit; her Visual Powerline points the way. Find out more about Beth Baumert's Powerlines in her new book.

Here you see all the Powerlines at work: The Vertical Powerline goes from ear, shoulder, hip, to heel; the rider uses the Spiraling Powerline as she turns slightly to the left; her elastic Connecting Powerline goes from elbow to bit; her Visual Powerline points the way. Find out more about Beth Baumert’s Powerlines in her new book WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN.

 

TSB: You actively train horses and teach riders at your farm Cloverlea Dressage LLC. What is the most common issue you see in your riding students? What is the usual solution?

BB: Riders are inclined to treat half-halts as if they’re sort of mysterious—as if they can only be mastered by experts. Their expectations are often too low. Half-halts are not mysterious, and anyone can do one. I tell riders how to do a half-halt (I outline this in WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS), and I ask them to do them rather frequently. Then I ask: “Did that one work? No? He quit behind? Okay, no problem. Do it again with a little more seat and leg. Did that one work?” And so on.

 

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember sitting on a horse.

BB: I’m not sure I remember specifically, but I wasn’t very young. I was given a horse—a green jumper mare—when my father died. I was 16, and she helped me through a hard time. She was a great horse.

 

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember falling off a horse.

BB: I don’t remember the first time, but I remember the last time was off one of my daughter Jennifer’s horses. He dashed me into the stones below so fast that I never saw it coming. It was stunningly impressive.

 

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

BB: Honesty

 

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?

BB: Again, honesty. Almost all horses are honest. When we say a horse isn’t “honest,” it often means he never learned that “this aid means that.” Lack of clarity in the riding.

 

TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?

BB: Butter. There’s nothing that doesn’t taste divine when it has a stick of butter in it.

 

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

BB: They say that a mother is never happier than her least happy child, and there’s some truth in that. I’m happiest when the people who are dear to me are happy and fulfilled.

 

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect meal?

BB: With family or friends by the pool in Wellington, Florida. It doesn’t matter what we’re eating, but if Jennifer cooked, it’s always good.

 

TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?

BB: I’m shy with famous people and feel especially distant if they’re dead.

 

TSB: What is your motto?

BB: Honesty works, even when it makes you unpopular.

 

TwoSpinesHere

Beth Baumert’s book WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS has been called “timeless” by dressage judge Axel Steiner and “desperately needed” by former US Show Jumping Chef d’Equipe George Morris. It is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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The winter sun rises over the TSB warehouse in Vermont.

The winter sun rises over the TSB warehouse in Vermont.

As we wrap another year in the Trafalgar Square Books offices here in Vermont, it feels good to pause and look back at the results of our hard work, as well as ponder the things we learned about horses and horsemanship over the last 12 months.

We take great pride in our authors and in the horse books and DVDs we have published and released over the years—now over 600 titles. Here, at a glance, are the new books and DVDs we added in 2014:

 

Click the image above to get a quick review of the TSB 2014 books and DVDs.

Click the image above to get a quick review of the TSB 2014 books and DVDs.

 

3-Minute Horsemanship

by Vanessa Bee (January)

The Riding Horse Repair Manual

by Doug Payne (March)

Games for Kids on Horseback

by Gabriele Karcher (April)

Centered Riding 2 Paperback Edition

by Sally Swift (April)

Good Horse, Bad Habits

by Heather Smith Thomas (April)

Dressage Solutions

by Arthur Kottas-Heldenberg (May)

The Riding Doctor

by Dr. Beth Glosten (June)

Building a Life Together—You and Your Horse

by Magali Delgado and Frederic Pignon (June)

Collective Remarks

by Anne Gribbons (July)

Creative Dressage Schooling

by Julia Kohl (September)

When Two Spines Align:Dressage Dynamics 

by Beth Baumert (September)

Kids Riding with Confidence

by Andrea and Markus Eschbach (October)

Success through Cavaletti-Training DVD 

by Ingrid Klimke (November)

5-Minute Fixes to Improve Your Riding DVD

by Wendy Murdoch (November)

5-Minute Jumping Fixes DVD

by Wendy Murdoch (November)

Beyond Horse Massage Wall Charts

by Jim Masterson (November)

The Art of Liberty Training for Horses

by Jonathan Field (December)

Rider+Horse=1

by Eckart Meyners, Hannes Muller, and Kerstin Niemann (December)

 

Trafalgar Square Books (www.HorseandRiderBooks.com) is the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs. CLICK HERE to visit our online storefront or DOWNLOAD OUR NEWEST CATALOG.

 

Have a wonderful, safe, joy-filled New Year!

–The TSB Staff, North Pomfret, Vermont

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FauxRunaway

Early in my riding career, but after I knew a thing or two, I used to ride this hot chestnut mare (I know, if three words were ever meant to string together…). I’d be exhausted after flatting her 15 minutes. I thought it was really all I could do to keep her from plowing down the long side and right through the arena fence. But man could that mare jump. So, I kept on, keeping on—if only just barely.

After months of making little progress on my own, I finally had a lesson, and as is many times the case, a breakthrough.

“Stop trying to hold her back and put your leg ON her,” my instructor barked, clearly frustrated by my struggles that were all about the mare’s front end, with no concern at all for what was going on behind me.

Sure enough, as soon as I ceased obsessing about the control I felt I didn’t have and instead focused on activating her hind end, she stepped up and under me, stretched down and forward, and our awful, lurching, zig-zaggy rhythm that had clearly caused my instructor to feel quite ill, evened out.

In her new book WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS, dressage trainer and technical editor for Dressage Today magazine Beth Baumert discusses what she calls the “Faux Runaway” and a very easy exercise to get the party going out back so things can settle down up front. Check it out:

 

As you know, horses don’t inherently know that the way to gain freedom is by energizing the hindquarters, rather than the forehand. Fresh young horses or hot older horses are a tough test for the rider’s balance as their enthusiastic front legs want to carry the forehand away from the lazy hindquarters. They pull the center of balance forward and away from the rider’s seat—the seat that connects the rider to her horse’s hindquarters.

The rider feels that her horse is running away, so she’s amazed when her trainer says her horse’s hindquarters look lazy. The feeling is misleading because the surge of energy is actually very real, but it’s caused by the front end that’s running away from the snoozing hind end. It’s often even an experienced rider’s tendency to use prolonged restraining aids with this horse, but that never works.

Years ago at the Aachen Horse Show, one of the American riders was in this situation. Her horse was very hot, and she was persistently trying to quiet and relax him. Her German trainer came along and told her to go for a gallop. Although the rider was horrified at the prospect, that was just the answer to her problem. It got the horse’s hind end in gear so the energy that reached her hand came from the hindquarters instead of the forehand. As a result, the horse was very successful in the competition. The American rider retained her horse’s enthusiasm for working, but gained control over the whole horse from behind.

When your horse is too strong and you can’t (or don’t dare to) gallop, do movements in which your leg is required to activate the hindquarters. Find a way to ride your horse from back to front. Make turns-on-the-forehand and do leg-yield. If you and your horse know how, do movements such as turn-on-the-haunches, shoulder-in, travers (haunches-in), renvers (haunches-out), and half-pass. Also do transitions between these movements. Do things that require you to use your seat and leg, and use your hands last—and only when you need to. Each time you communicate with your seat and leg more, you need your hands less. Then he will listen to your seat and legs more, and work more from his hind-end pushing engine.

And try this exercise:

WhenTwoSpinesAlignFinal

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Get your Horse’s Pushing Engine in Gear

Directions: To get your horse’s pushing engine in gear, start from the moment you walk out of the barn with your horse in hand. Do you have to pull him out by his face, or does he step smartly from his hind legs and walk next to your shoulder? He might need to be asked with a cluck or a tap from your whip. So, begin…

      Walk in Hand. Ask your horse to give you the same walk that you will expect when you’re sitting on him. While walking in hand, his only restrictions are the weight of the saddle and bridle. (When you mount, no matter how skilled you are, your weight is an additional restriction. Ideally, you want the energy stepping through his back and to your hand before he has this restriction.) Your horse’s walk should convey a quiet workmanlike attitude. When you have a self-perpetuating, relaxed walk, get on. Many top riders hand walk their horses for 10 or 15 minutes before mounting.

      Mount and Walk on a Long Rein. Walk on a long rein (if it feels safe). Be sure the pushing engine is still in gear given the added restriction of your weight. Carry your own weight in a balanced way so your horse’s body won’t be inclined to become like a hammock. If you have a mirror in your arena, walk parallel to it and ask yourself: “Why are we covering ground? Is it because of the front-end pulling engine or the hind-end pushing engine?”

Listen to the rhythm of the four-beat walk. When he’s balanced, your horse takes energetic steps from behind that are deliberate and self-perpetuating, but not hectic. Feel the energy flowing under your seat. When he’s stepping “through” his body, you can steer him easily with your body. Give yourself a steering test by riding simple figures and diagonal lines without rein contact. Leave your hands on the withers and point him on your line of travel with your eyes, shoulders, hips, knees, and toes and step in the direction you want to go. He’ll follow your weight and reach in that direction.

 

Find more great riding insight and exercises in WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS by Beth Baumert, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW

 

Coming to the USDF Convention in Cambridge, Massachusetts, this week? Stop by the TSB booth and meet authors Beth Baumert and Anne Gribbons during special author signings!

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Upward transitions are all about thrust and reach. They reinforce the "Go." Downward transitions are all about engagement. They reinforce the "Whoa."

Upward transitions are all about thrust and reach. They reinforce the “Go.” Downward transitions are all about engagement. They reinforce the “Whoa.”

 

“The purpose of transitions,” says Beth Baumert in her new book WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS, “isn’t to get into the gait of choice, but rather to do it with grace, in a way that improves the horse. Transitions can improve the connection and collect him.”

Transitions not only make life fun and interesting for the horse, they also put the rider in the position of leader. Here are Beth’s tips for riding good transitions:

  • Make one change at a time.
  • Convert the energy.
  • Monitor the frame.
  • Relax the neck.
  • Monitor the bend.
  • Monitor the rhythm.
  • Monitor the speed.
  • “Look for the possibility”—feel for the right moment to make the transition.

 

Exercise: Looking for the Possibility
“Looking for the possibility” of a transition is all about gaining access to the horse’s hindquarters and keeping connected to them.

Step 1  Do a trot-walk transition and immediately do a leg-yield or shoulder-fore. Then trot off again.

Step 2  Next, halt briefly and do a turn-on-the-forehand or a turn-on-the-haunches. Then trot off again. The turn or movement teaches the horse that he needs to stay connected and listening with his hindquarters in the walk. Even if the turn or the movement isn’t perfect, it improves him, making the next upward transition more supple, engaged, and obedient. It makes the next transition more possible.

Step 3  Do variations of the same theme: Leg-yield or confirm your shoulder-fore before the transition to canter. These transitions help you retain the ability to “Go” in downward transitions, and they help you retain the ability to “Whoa” in the forward work. When the circle of aids is working you can easily adjust your horse within that circle, making anything possible. You want to be in the “land of all possibilities.”

 

Find other great insight and exercises in Beth’s new book WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS, available now from the TSB online bookstore.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

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Here’s what top riders, trainers, and judges are saying about WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS:

“Sometimes when I’m teaching I find myself thinking my student really needs to read Beth Baumert’s book. The perspective and the words she’s chosen give a welcomed fresh approach to describing the theories behind training.” —George Williams, Member, US Dressage Team and President, United States Dressage Federation (USDF)

“I absolutely LOVE this book! It grabbed me from the moment I read the words ‘perfect balance’ and ‘that place where two spines meet’—you get such a great visual from this! When teaching, it can be a struggle to help riders who can’t seem to balance themselves. This is where author Beth Baumert provides a valuable tool: She explains why the rider’s balance is the key to the horse’s balance and how a controlled interaction of balance ultimately leads to success and harmony. This book is where the magic begins.” —Debbie McDonald, Two-Time Olympian and USEF Developing Dressage Coach

“Beth Baumert and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to horses and dressage training. Now she has created the best guide I’ve seen for those who really want to grasp the ins and outs of dressage—I’ve never read a book covering all facets of dressage in this detail. With all that is going on in our sport today, I hope that riders—now and in the future—will pursue dressage as it is described here by Beth.” —Henk van Bergen, Former Chef d’Equipe, Dutch National Dressage Team and British National Young Riders Developing Team, and Member, FEI Judges Supervisory Panel

“This book is truly timeless. I can humbly admit that it clarified some subject even for me, after a lifetime of being involved with dressage. It is the equivalent of countless clinics given by some of the best in the world.” —Axel Steiner, FEI 5* Dressage Judge (Retired), USEF “S” Judge, and USDF “L” Program Faculty Member

“Beth Baumert’s book is desperately needed. I see many riders going down the wrong road, often because of a dubious understanding of the term ‘dressage’ and a limited view of its importance. Whatever you are riding—whether hunters, ponies, jumpers—I recommend that you learn about and use dressage in your schooling, if only for reasons of maintaining soundness. I’m lucky that, in my life of riding and teaching, there has never been jumping without flatwork. But that’s in my own little world. Today’s riders are too consumed with cosmetics and competition. Even riders at the top have somehow lost what the Masters knew centuries ago! Every rider needs to know the basic tenets of dressage, and so I recommend When Two Spines Align: Dressage Dynamics. I can’t say enough good about it.” —George Morris, Former Chef d’Equipe, US Show Jumping Team

“This is a great book! It mirrors what I see in Beth Baumert’s students—they all demonstrate a very classical way of riding and training horses. When Two Spines Align: Dressage Dynamics clearly explains the classical foundation of how the rider should balance and sit so that he or she can then educate the horse. Beth has provided a valuable tool for all kinds and levels of riders.” —Bo Jena, Chef d’Equipe, Swedish Dressage Team and FEI 4* Judge

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